People will turn around and say that the appearance of the Harvest Moon games has never been the main focus, which is true to some extent, but they have been growing in attractiveness over recent years, especially with the lovely GBA Friends of Mineral Town and both GameCube outings, A Wonderful Life and Magical Melody (which is rumoured for a July 2007 release here). Therefore, to see that the first DS iteration (there have been four in Japan now, including Rune Factory) basically looks like the GBA game with a few touch-screen extras tacked on is quite disappointing. This means that although the characters are cute in appearance, everything appears to be like a SNES game. At least the soundtrack helps to add more shine to the presentation side as you are treated to some serene harmonies that both soothe and relax, complementing the peaceful gameplay approach remarkably well. In fact, it is fortunate the main theme is so nice as you will be hearing it a lot.
Running a farm has never been as simple as in Harvest Moon DS, with all your equipment at hand so you can easily look after your land, clear up any debris or detritus lying around and plant seeds to grow lovely crops that will make you lots of money in the long-term, as long as you actively monitor their growth, water them sufficiently and harvest them at the right time. In fact, almost everything can be sorted out without having to leave the confines of your farming abode, since in this version you do not have to wander over to the nearby village if you do not wish to...instead the handy phone in your house works as a means of sorting everything out.
The only time you really need to move your heavy backside around is when you want to tend to your livestock and use the stylus to 'touch' them (...). In addition to this there is a light storyline floating along in the background that revolves around a feud between the Harvest Goddess and an annoying witch, with the pesky sorceress making the Goddess and her loyal Harvest Sprites all disappear, leaving you to try and find them all. The Sprites, for example, can be found randomly whilst wandering around town and the witch will generally pop up along the way to offer 'advice' (normally being very unhelpful on purpose). Whether you actually bother to look for them does not really impact on the overall game, though, so the choice is yours.
In the past there has been a large focus on interacting with others around the town, inviting new people to your farm and even getting to know various ladies and attempting to woo them. Unfortunately none of these aspects are developed and included in Harvest Moon DS, meaning that although there is the odd little occurrence that gives you hope of something building up at long last, nothing ever does come of it all and you are left to play around with the farm and the animals. There would be no real issue with this if we had not been treated to more in-depth versions before, but once the good stuff has been tasted, there is no going back without doing so very begrudgingly. If this is marketed as an entry-level Harvest Moon then it could well appeal to the DS market that love Animal Crossing so much, but long-term fans of the series that have not already imported Magical Melody should either cross their fingers and wait for that or simply wait for Harvest Moon: Tree of Tranquillity on Wii or Harvest Moon: The Island I Grew Up On for DS.
With regards to how long the game will last you, Harvest Moon, as with Animal Crossing or The Sims, is very open-ended as you can simply keep running and maintaining your farm, looking after the animals, growing crops and raking in the cash for as long as you desire. The question mark that hangs over this particular entry, though, is just how long will it be before you ultimately grow tired of repeating the same procedure without any real reward or incentive to continue. Unlike more recent Harvest Moon efforts, or even the GBA and GC games, Harvest Moon DS does not offer enough to entice the gamer back as often as you would imagine and thus it has a brevity that previous HM games never had.